FAQs: Undue influence and wills

 

What is undue influence?

A will can be declared invalid if it is proven an interested party exerted undue influence on the will-maker. Undue influence occurs when a person exerts such a degree of coercion that the will-maker loses their own volition and the will is made out in favour of the person exerting the undue influence. The conclusion being that without undue influence the will-maker would not have ordered their affairs in this way.

Can I contest a will?

If there is cause of concern about a will, most spouses, civil partners, children and close relatives of a deceased person will have a right to contest it. Undue influence cannot be presumed when contesting a will; therefore it will be up to the complaining party to produce evidence that it has taken place. Another ground, such as the deceased’s lack of knowledge or approval of the contents of the will, may be easier to prove in court.

How do I contest a will?

You should lodge a caveat with the Probate registry as soon as possible after the death, to stop the proceeds of the estate from being distributed. A contested will can be settled through the process of alternative dispute resolution but if this fails court proceedings may be your only option. However, if your claim fails you may be liable to pay the other side’s legal costs. Therefore you should seek legal advice from a specialist solicitor as soon as possible if you are worried about undue influence.

Is there a time limit?

The executor or administrator may issue a warning against you. This requires you to formally state your interest in the estate. If you do not respond within eight days, they can apply to have the caveat removed. If you respond and enter an appearance (grounds for lodging the caveat) it will remain in force open-endedly, until the matter is resolved. However, if a grant of representation has been made, you only have six months from the date of the grant to contest the will.

What will happen if undue influence is proven?

If undue influence can be proven in court and there is no previous valid will, the rules of intestacy will apply. This means there will be a hierarchy of inheritance, beginning with the spouse and children, parents and other close relatives, followed by distant relatives.

If you would like expert legal advice then we can help to put you in touch with a local specialist solicitor free of charge. Call our experienced case handlers on 08001 221 2299.

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